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Helping Them Helps Us, A Case Study: How Assisting Academic Programs In The Developing World Makes Us Better Teachers Back Home

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

International Aspects of Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.667.1 - 14.667.17



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Paper Authors

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Aaron Hill United States Military Academy

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Scott Hamilton United States Military Academy

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Eric Crispino United States Military Academy

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Andrew Bellocchio United States Military Academy

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Stephen Ressler United States Military Academy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Helping Them Helps Us! A Case Study: How Developing Academic Programs in the Developing World Makes us Better Teachers Back Home Abstract

For the past five years, the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado have helped to create, develop and build an undergraduate academic program at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA). One of the most successful parts of the program development has been the creation of the Civil Engineering core curriculum and major. The authors, all West Point engineering instructors involved with NMAA’s civil engineering development, discovered many benefits from providing this academic assistance which improved their teaching abilities. While our original mission was focused on faculty, curriculum, and course development, we soon encountered numerous challenges that ultimately improved our educational skills. We quickly found ourselves deeply involved in department level planning and decision-making, complete laboratory setup and training, computer software setup and training, infrastructure assessment, faculty hiring, supply acquisition, and student development. Many of these critical, additional tasks were unfamiliar to us, since they are typically done by other senior administrators or by those in specialized jobs within our department. We were also challenged with ensuring NMAA instructors could adequately explain material to those for who English is a second language, convincing them that our advice was in the best interest of student learning, and continually making changes on the fly. This paper will detail the challenges we faced and investigate the correlation that exists between our unique experiences and our development as faculty members, stressing those things we brought back that have enhanced our teaching in the US. While our efforts were focused on one program, in one country, these lessons could be applied to any faculty members building educational programs elsewhere in the developing world.

Creating a Civil Engineering Program in Afghanistan

The National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA) located in Kabul, Afghanistan, recently graduated its first class as a result of the combined efforts between US advisors and Afghan military leadership.1 Its short history began in August 2003, when the Vice Dean for Education from the US Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY, went to Afghanistan and met with Afghan and US military officials to discuss starting a military academy. While Afghanistan has had military academies in the past, they were all modeled after Soviet institutions where there was only a military training emphasis. The NMAA model includes four pillars: academic, physical, military, and character-leadership development, all supported by a foundation of Islamic based morals and ethics. Graduates from NMAA would receive a four year undergraduate degree. This new institution would resemble West Point in many ways. The Afghan leadership envisioned this would be the way to prepare their future military leaders for the countless challenges their country faced. This institution was such a priority that in just two short years, the country was ready to start this envisioned crown jewel of military education in Afghanistan. By September 2004, the admissions process selected 120 new cadets out of the 360 applicants. Just four months later, this first class of cadets began their journey. Four years later,

Hill, A., & Hamilton, S., & Crispino, E., & Bellocchio, A., & Ressler, S. (2009, June), Helping Them Helps Us, A Case Study: How Assisting Academic Programs In The Developing World Makes Us Better Teachers Back Home Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5592

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015